People who work in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields and want to work temporarily in the U.S. often try to get an H-1B “specialty occupation” visa. These visas are only available to a limited number of people each year, however, and they are issued on a lottery basis.
If you missed out on an H-1B visa, you may still have the opportunity to live and work in the U.S. on a non-immigrant basis using another type of visa. A good choice for technology and science candidates is often the O-1 “extraordinary ability” visa.
Like the H-1B, this is a nonimmigrant visa, meaning that it is a way to live and work in the U.S. temporarily. For STEM professionals, you would apply for an O-1A visa, which is for people with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education business or athletics.
How do I prove I have ‘extraordinary ability’?
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means “a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.”
You have to show your extraordinary ability by demonstrating “sustained national or international acclaim.” You can include awards, membership in professional societies, media coverage, publications in prestigious journals or other evidence of acclaim and expertise.
In order to qualify for an O-1 visa, you will have to get a U.S. job in the field in which you have extraordinary ability. The organization that hires you will petition for your visa.
How long can I stay? Can I bring my family?
For O-1 visas, the USCIS will determine how long you need the visa. The general term is one year. However, you may be approved for up to three years on your initial petition. Under certain circumstances, however, your stay can be extended.
If you want to bring your family, your spouse and any children under 21 can come with you or follow on O-3 visas. The O-3 visa does not come with a work authorization, but O-3 visitors can study full or part time.
If you have questions about an O-1 visa or would like to apply, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience helping people come to the U.S. to live or work.